London’s transport authority could run out of money to pay staff by the end of the month unless the government steps in, Sadiq Khan has warned.
Income from fares has plummeted during the lockdown and Transport for London (TfL) has been using cash reserves to keep running, the mayor said.
He told BBC Radio London that without government support, services could be cut “because we can’t pay people”.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has been approached for comment.
Fares earned TfL £4.9bn in 2019-20, making up 47% of the transport authority’s income.
However, the lockdown has led to a 95% cut in people using the Tube compared to this time last year after people were told only to make essential journeys.
The number of bus passengers has also dropped, by 85%, and customers no longer have to tap-in to pay for rides as part of measures to protect drivers.
Recent figures show it is costing £600m a month to run London’s entire London transport network and Mr Khan said TfL was “struggling” as the fall in fares had meant “we’re eating into our reserves”.
When asked how long that was sustainable for, London’s mayor said “probably [until the] end of this month”.
“What we can’t afford to do is have to make a decision to cut more services because we can’t pay people,” he said.
BBC London transport correspondent Tom Edwards
London transport faces a massive challenge unlike anything it has encountered before.
Transport for London (TfL) as an organisation was already making cuts to balance its books but it is now wrestling with the evaporation of its biggest revenue generator – fares.
Not only is it grappling with reduced income but it still has to run services.
The nightmare scenario for TfL, as well as other transport operators, is that passengers do not return to mass transit after the lockdown is over.
Cities could then face huge upheavals in travel.
Read more from Tom here.
Mr Khan added that TfL was having “conversations with the government in relation to supporting us through a grant”.
“To be fair they get the point because they have the same issue around the country,” he said.
The DfT previously announced it was helping the UK’s rail franchises due to the “significant drops” in their income as passenger numbers have fallen.